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Review: The Last Empire – The Final Days of the Soviet Union – by Serhii Plokhy

the last empire

When the Soviet Union ended and thus the Cold War ended on Christmas Day 1991, it was probably one of the biggest political events of my lifetime. This well-researched, detailed book, by Ukrainian author Serhii Plokhy, details the last 18 months of the Soviet Union’s existence. After USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev’s revolutionary policies of Glasnost and Perestroika were introduced throughout the Soviet Empire, the changing landscape of the union meant many things. Communism was in its death throes and there was a rise of democracy and nationalism and independence movements amongst the various states and peoples that populated the USSR. American influence became more important and after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when Eastern Europe was surrendered to populist democracies and ceased to be part of the wider Soviet Empire, American pressure continues on the remaining state as the Baltics sought to continue the domino effect. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were supported in their independence by US president, George H.W. Bush and this undermined the Soviet Union as a whole. Rising stars such as Boris Yeltsin in Russia, Leonid Kravchuk of the Ukraine and other stars of independence in the EuroAsian nations of the Soviet Bloc, all were coming to the forefront. After a critical putsch, a military / KGB coup in August 1991 that sealed Gorbachev in his Crimea Dacha, these rising stars clubbed together to put down the Conservative hardliners who threatened the President, the Union itself and the status quo of the democratic freedoms they were enjoying. The Coup failed by Gorbachev was left irreparably weak and afterwards, especially the opportunist Yeltsin, capitalised on the successes of their newfound power and ultimately broke apart into a series of independent nations and states, finally managing to seal the death of the Party Centre and Union Centre itself with their creation of the CIS, Commonwealth of Independent States, that would inherit the remnants of the Soviet Union’s power system. The high point of this most excellent detailed political history of the Fall of the Soviet Union, was the detail of the August coup against Gorbachev. This Machiavellian power struggle was an amazing opening of doors and it is a surprise that the whole dismantling of the Empire didn’t erupt into a ‘Yugoslavia with Nukes’ scenario that many were fearing. The book focuses very much on the role of President Bush and his interactions with Gorbachev and…

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Review: Cocaine Nation – How The White Trade Took Over The World – by Tom Feiling

cocaine nation

This is an enthralling, well-researched book, that reveals many unknown new facts about the global cocaine industry. The book opens with a chapter focussing on the USA, the biggest market for the Cocaine industry, where 66% of Cocaine users exist. We then enter into the producing and transit phase of the drug and examine Colombia, Mexico and the Caribbean in detail. Colombia has the infamous Medellín and Cali cartels, much responsible for the initial production of Cocaine. The role of the FARC, AUC and the Colombian Civil War is documented and the political difficulties with America’s Plan Colombia and the extreme bribery involved in Colombian political life. In Mexico, we see how the various cartels such as Sinaloa, Juárez, Gulf and Tijuana have gone to war, recruiting the services of such paramilitaries as Los Zetas. The Caribbean covers Jamaica in detail and also Cuba, Haiti and the various tax haven islands. In Jamaica we see how politics have heavily influenced the gang culture and the rise of the Shower Posse is documented. In all of the Western producer country sphere, the USA and its policies is never far from the forefront. The ‘War on Drugs’ in force from many successive administrations at the White House, often focuses on producer and transit countries and is totally supported by draconian United Nations international legislation. The European market, in particular the United Kingdom is the second largest market for Cocaine and some countries here have introduced decriminalisation. In places such as Holland and Portugal, drug use is not penalised. The author explores how users are affected by the drug and explores addiction, in particular the problems of crack cocaine. In the final part of the book we look at possible legalisation solutions although, despite Feiling’s enthusiasm for this to happen, I fear it will be many generations before this becomes politically possible. Perhaps with potential cannabis decriminalisation and legalisation on the agenda, it will open up the doors for other narcotics to follow suit? I enjoyed the book and it really does go into detail on what is an interesting subject and a truly global industry.

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Review: Persian Mirrors – The Elusive Face of Iran – by Elaine Sciolino

persian mirrors

Elaine Sciolino is a female New York Times journalist who had the good fortune of being present in Paris with the exiled future leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomenei. When he seized power from the Shah in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Sciolino was one of the first Western journalists on the ground and she enjoyed privileged access to the new Iranian clerical elite. Iran is a country so alien to us in the West and the lack of knowledge of this ancient culture that is expressed to us in our news and history books made me drawn to reading this book. It is very well written, with lots of detail and the best part for me was the personalised touch. We hear of a woman with a deep commitment to exposing this ‘other’ culture. She writes with the eyes of an American female yet is obviously deeply in love with this country’s people, if not always the ideals of their government. The ways of life are so strikingly difficult. I was overwhelmed by the seeming oppression that the general population live under. There is a remarkable contrast between public and private life and Sciolino was fortunate enough to be invited into the private spheres that would often elude a typical tourist’s quest. The acceptance of senior Imams and clerics and government officials to provide her with sensitive material makes this such a critical read and I found it particularly interesting when her Iranian female friends allowed her into their private spaces, where the public veil of the chador could be lifted. The exploration of various areas of Iran journeyed us from ruins in Persepolis to the rigours of religious life in Qom. There was always an overlook at how the Islamic Revolution was still occurring and the ways that this strict religious governance affects people truly exposes the current national psyche that separates us so much from Iranians in the modern age. ‘Death to America’, a much-repeated slogan in the Revolution must have meant that it was particularly dangerous for Sciolino to research this book, but she demonstrates that things are changing and in fact most Iranians would love to actually visit America and it is this that makes her as an individual, as fascinating to them as they are to her. I think that for anyone who wishes to understand Iran, in its modern situation, especially with the rhetoric…

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Review: Avengers of the New World – The Story of the Haitian Revolution – by Laurent Dubois

avengers of the new world

Saint Domingue was the Western French-owned side of Hispaniola. French colonists built it up into a wealthy imperial source of plantation economy produce, founded on the settlement of African slaves, products of the Triangular Slave Trade across the Atlantic. The hills and plains were dotted with sugar plantations and vast amounts of coffee and indigo were also produced. White settlers occupied only 10% of the island’s population, however, and as free people of colour (gens du couleur) became more of an entity, laments for freedom, using the terminology of the French Revolution’s decrees, were an increasing weight upon the colonial administrators. Settling African tribesman as slaves, such as the Ibo, proved problematic as they all would rather die at their own hands than submit to their slave-masters. Legends grew such as that of Makandal, and slaves began to plot in earnest. Eventually, a mass slave revolt broke out and the people fought their masters until slavery was abolished. With their new found freedom, the former slaves rebuilt Saint Domingue from the ashes of revolt and further into a final severing of ties with the colonial masters. New generals rose up in the army, culminating in the great Toussaint Louverture, who would lead his people into full-scale revolution against France and ultimately, although he was sacrificed, give way to the final freeing of the colony and the birth of the nation of Haiti, a nation of Blacks and the first successful slave revolt in history

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Review: This is for the Mara Salvatrucha – Inside the MS-13, America’s Most Violent Gang – by Samuel Logan

ms13

The Mara Salvatrucha is a street gang formed in 1980s Los Angeles, by Salvadoran immigrants. From its outset it has had to be lethally violent and this book details the story of the gang as it migrates across America, through the eyes of traitor and informant, 16 year old Brenda Paz. Brenda was jumped into the gang after falling in love with a local leader. Her bright charisma and personality, earning her the nickname ‘Smiley’, mean that her conscience struggles to deal with some of the more horrific elements of gang culture and after being picked up for a misdemeanour and interrogated about her then boyfriend’s activities, Brenda decides to back out of gang life and turn state informer. She details everything from the gang’s hierarchy, to covert hand signals, to its involvement with many crimes, including murder and agrees to betray the high level men that she has romantic liaisons with. But all is not good in protective custody and Brenda cannot escape the high’s of gang culture. the camaraderie, this Latino street family that gives her all she needs. She slips back into association with the gang, hoping that her betrayal will not be discovered but ultimately she pays the highest price and becomes yet another sacrifice in this brutal gang’s spiral of violence.

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Review: Cahier d’un Retour au Pays Natal – by Aimé Césaire

cahier d'un retour au pays natal

Aimé Césaire is the father of Martinican literature. In his Cahier, he explores his roots in his native Martinique and looks with an often angry voice at the repression of his fellow islanders. The Cahier is a poem directed at enlightening the views of his fellow countrymen and giving them a point at which to resist their colonial masters, to escape the bonds of Negrédom, the chains of slavery that bound them in the triangular slave trade culture and left them in the sugar cane fields of Martinique. A founding father of the black movement in literature, Négritude, Césaire explores the roots of slavery and his négritude is a self-revealing look at how he is perceived by the world, due to his skin colour. The poetic text is often violent and revealing and he uses a variety of different methods to shock and disturb the reader. One is always looking for an identity of Martinique and the author succeeds in describing the island’s features, its fauna and flora, its colonial past, its poverty and hunger and suffering of the population. As we move through the book, the racial voice progresses until we hear a potent cry of anger about this inequality, the way in which his race restricts his world view and aspirations. I found the book, convenient in its parallel text, usefully translated, and a positive journey into the Caribbean. In the twenty-first century we still have not unshackled racism from our society and slavery is very much alive, if not as a political reality, but as an enchaining colonial restriction upon the black inhabitants of Martinique and its Caribbean cousins. It must be stressed how important a work this must be to natives of Martinique and the foundation point it is for black literature. I studied this book as part of my ‘Imaging The Islands’ course at Cardiff University’s School of Modern Languages.

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Review: Confessions of a Yakuza – by Junichi Saga

confessions of a yakuza

A doctor conversing with one of his elderly patients in Japan, reveals this amazingly quaint story of a Yakuza gang leader. Set in the heart of Tokyo in the early twentieth century, our hero comes from an ordinary background and works his way into a veritable life in the underworld, as a professional gambler, running dice games, which is the heart of the Yakuza’s business. The story has tales of romance from whores and geisha women, to running away and eloping only to cut off his own finger in a ritual apology. There are several visits to jail where he abides by Yakuza rules and etiquette, gaining much respect. He has a stint in the military abroad in North Korea and spends much of World War 2 dodging bombs in Tokyo and continuing to run gambling dens. There is an antiquity to the tales which describe the character is the most personal way. One feels attached to the gangster and one can learn a great deal about the structure of organised crime and what life actually was like to be part of it only last century. One thing that resounded was the deep respect for bosses and between members of the same organisation and indeed rival gangs. I really loved the story and read the book rather quickly. It’s a shame the final part was glossed over and we didn’t get to continue the story up until the death of the Yakuza man

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Review: The KLF – Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds – by John Higgs

klf

The KLF were one of my favourite bands as a teenager and partly responsible for introducing me to dance music. When they disappeared from the music industry it was a great disappointment and although they featured quite a lot in the press, their whole existence mainly remains an enigma. This book pieces together the fragments that are the KLF. Heavily centred on Bill Drummond’s life we read some truly magic tales. From, as their manager, sending Echo & The Bunnymen on tour to Iceland so he could magically stand on a manhole cover in Liverpool docks, we meet many strange anecdotes about a group that formed and based their philosophy on Discordianism. The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu take their name from the Illuminatus trilogy that introduces the world to Discordianism, a worship of Eris, the Goddess of Chaos and where the number 23 is sacred. One thing is for sure is that Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, as the KLF, were totally off their heads. They filled a void in the early 1990s and became pioneers of the electronic dance music industry but they always struggled to fit into the music industry. There is a longing for more and eventually they find their place in the world of art, having burned a million pounds in cash to achieve their status there. I have read recent talk of a reforming of the KLF coming soon and with the 23 year period of their freezing coming to an end in 2018 I truly look forward to them reappearing from the abyss and producing some more enlightening driving beats, something that all of their fans would truly appreciate.

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Review: Gangland – The Rise of the Mexican Drug Cartels from El Paso to Vancouver – by Jerry Langton

gangland

This fascinating subject is explored by the author, Jerry Langton, in a fresh and vibrant manner. He makes the often bloody stories flow nicely into each other. What is for sure is that the Mexican drug war is a nasty business and page after page of horrifying bloodthirstiness attends to this. We read of the different cartels from Sinaloa across Mexico. Ciudad Juarez, the murder capital of the world is a common area for discussion. The author always has his mind on the export role of the cartels and how their actions are affecting populations further North in the USA and Canada. If anything, it is difficult to weave together a fabric of the tale due to the sheer mass of brutalities that have occurred. More people are killed each year in Mexico due to the cartel warfare than in foreign war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The book is not the first I have studied on this topic in Mexico and I found it very well-researched and full of details, some of which were unknown to me previously. It is certainly worth a read if the topic of Mexican cartels interests you.

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Review – The Legend of El Chapo Guzman – by J.D.Rockefeller

the legend of el chapo Guzman

The subject of the book makes it appealing and gives you the desire to part with the £6 or so it costs on Amazon. El Chapo is a buzz subject a folk-hero, a modern legend. He is head of the Sinaloa Cartel and in charge of one of the most lucrative drug-trading networks on the planet. However, I would seriously avoid buying this book as it is very poorly written and researched. There is nothing here that you would not get from surfing to Joaquin Loera Guzman’s wikipedia. The book is very short and can be read (with difficulty) in half an hour – only 25 pages of large type. It appears, due to the very poor standard of English that it is translated from another language (most probably Spanish). However, a professional translator was not consulted and it is most probably a simple transposition of Spanish newspaper articles, using Google Translate. It really is so poorly written that I can see no other explanation. I think that the author is simply coining in on El Chapo’s name and portraying him also in rather a negative light. I, for one, would not like to cross paths and offend such a potentially explosively dangerous man by character assassination which is basically what this book amounts to. A cheap poke at a cult figure and an attempt to coin in on someone else’s fame. For such a worthy and interesting subject it would pay heed, as an author, to do some proper research, to get on the actual ground in Sinaloa, and gain some true revelations which would be far more interesting than just casually reproducing evidence that is already in the public domain and doing a bad job of that also. A discredit to El Chapo and unworthy of any attention. AVOID!

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Review: Chav Punk Hobbit – The Quest to The End Of The World – by Jason Phillips

chav punk hobbit

Jason is a Welsh Musician, and in this short book, he details his most recent Camino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage experience. He takes the Camino Portugués from Porto, a follow up to his previous encounter with the more traditional, and more widely known and popular, Camino Frances. We find Jason alone in his hotel room in Porto in a dusky predawn, a crazed band post-gig, having departed, and left the protagonist with little money and equipment and a pipe dream to escape yet again on pilgrimage to Santiago. This book is a modern pilgrimage, a journey to self. We are not sharing the voyage of a medieval religious monk, we share our modern chav hobbit’s punk desires. He needs not mass, blood wine and body bread, but wifi, bocadillos and plastic auberge mattresses. Our modern day pilgrim needs not God’s guidance, but is savouring the beauty and tranquility of a rustic, muddy countryside, as his mind ventures into the pilgrim spirit and devours itself in questions of self-exploration. A host of characters is met and through the hero’s transcript of muttered profanities as he describes the lurid animals he meets en route we make friends with a myriad of personalities from dotted around the globe. Most notably, German astronomer-theologian Thomaas and later, Irish reveller and journeyman Eoin. Interspersed with Spanish natives and kind Portuguese innkeepers and waiters, our bubbly hero sounds off his thoughts and shares in the rich tapestry of life of his fellow men, all the time progressing his own mind’s journey and in a self-revelatory manner, touching our soul with more profound deeper and wise philosophy. Jason loves his woman in Wales. He never quite transcends and escapes his homeland of Wales. From the murky sacred Ulla river reminding him of his hometown, Newport, to thinking of his absent grandfather having disappeared to Australia on his journey’s End, nostalgia is always a containing force to Jason, preventing him from moving on and getting the success and desires he so craves from life. Is it money he seeks? He answers and affirmative no and sees it as a means to an end in life’s great journey. He does seek Broadband and Wifi, yet after we lose communications and move out of the realm of technological contact with the outside world, our hero is not lost but finds himself again and can let his hair down properly in…

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Review: The Snows of Kilimanjaro – by Ernest Hemingway

snows of kilimanjaro

Hemingway writes this collection of short stories in a true macho fashion. Hemingway loved his big sports and we venture in this book into many short tales, apparently many autobiographical, of hunting and fishing trips, of bullfights and horse-racing tracks. Sometimes we have to forgive the tough, crude use of language of the era. Wops and Niggers are weaved into the tale and overall the descriptions are oft brutal. This is a man’s book and the tales are all male-orientated. Hemingway never fails to capture the descriptive magic of a scene and even if a tale is only a brief couple of pages, our readers’ imaginations are left with a well-constructed fantastical imager, so typical of the simplistic literal style we associate with this great fiction writer.

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Review: The Stone Roses – War And Peace – by Simon Spence

stone roses war and peace

The Stone Roses are undoubtedly one of the most important bands to have emerged during my lifetime. Their early defining sound paved the way for the explosion of the ‘Madchester Sound’ and the book’s introduction about the seminal 1989 Spike Island gig was grippingly enthralling. We explore the roots of the band and each character tows together to form the inseparable four piece that went on to illuminate British pop and rock. Ian Brown, backed with the guitar of John Squire, Mani’s Bass and relentless Reni on drums form The Stone Roses and this magical tale weaves together their roots and their emergence and dominance of the UK Indie scene. Their exuberant manager Gareth Evans with his excesses reveals some of the excesses of the music industry that ultimately ripped The Stone Roses apart. Bad business with the record label due to mal-considered contracts led to the huge delay on the recording of The Second Coming, the band’s follow up to their 1989 debut masterpiece. The frustration of the recording of this album and inherent personal problems, including drug abuse, led to the breakup of the band. Irrevocable differences kept them apart for over 15 years and although they all succeeded in their own way in private projects it wasn’t until 2011 that the band reformed and it is a happy ending to the book to read about their golden legacy tour across the world, yet again an indestructible four-piece force of the Live Music World. A cracking read and a must for any fan. I was lucky enough to catch them at Finsbury Park in London on their comeback tour and it was a highlight for me musically, a true spectacle.

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Review: Touching from a Distance – Ian Curtis and Joy Division – by Deborah Curtis

ian curtis

I am a massive fan of Joy Division and feel that the band’s greatness has always been tainted by lead singer, Ian Curtis’ early death. He was a modern day British Jim Morrison, a trapped poet, muse to millions. This book, a heartfelt examination of the real man by his loving wife, serves as a poignant celebration of Ian Curtis. The biography is intimate in its detail and we are not just scratching the surface here but getting a true glimpse of what made this dark poet tick. His early fascination with a young death and suicide provide a recurring theme. From poverty through to a point where huge success was imminent and all their material worries would be over, Ian Curtis killed himself at the cusp of true legend status for his band. He has a mixed relationship with his wife, ultimately forcing her to endure a rock n roll affair through his Belgian mistress. He was truly torn and love ultimately did tear him apart. I found the struggle with epilepsy to be the underlying factor that drove Ian Curtis to death. It must have been horrific to live with such a chronic condition and yet he still rarely missed a live performance and maybe the forthcoming trip to America was just one jettison too far? This book is thoroughly readable, a true page-turner. I feel, having read it, closer to Ian Curtis and indeed one of my most favourite bands.

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Account For The Nationalist Victory In The Spanish Civil War

franco

The Spanish Civil War lasted for three years from 1936 to 1939 and was ultimately won by the Nationalists. This victory was far from certain at various points of the conflict and this essay shall explore the many factors that actually contributed to the ultimate outcome and that which paved the way for almost 4 decades of the authoritarian Franco régime in Spain. The single most important factor, in my opinion, which led to the Nationalist victory in the Civil War, was the international support that was offered to Franco’s troops. The Republican side became an international pariah, with only Russia substantially offering support, yet on the Nationalist side a coalition of Axis dictators paved the way for Franco with both Hitler and Mussolini readily providing matériel. ‘International participation and the ideological zeal which surrounded both sides conferred upon the war the character of a crusade.’ (Romero Salvadó 1999:94) Indeed, the whole military uprising, in the first place, couldn’t have succeeded without the Germans successfully transporting Franco’s Army of Africa across the Straits of Gibraltar. ‘Reinforcements were needed urgently on the mainland and, since the rising in the fleet had failed, aeroplanes were essential to carry the Army of Africa to Spain.’ (Beevor 2006:71) They were stranded and the whole pronuncamiento might have failed completely had Hitler’s Luftwaffe never intervened. Franco’s army provided the most crucial backbone for the Nationalist army. ‘In any case, the decisive factor in the power stakes was Franco’s control of the 47,000 well-armed and well-trained men of the Moroccan Army. The battle-hardened colonial army, consisting of the professionals of the Spanish Foreign Legion and Arab mercenaries of the Regulares Indígenas (native regulars), was to be the cornerstone of Nationalist success. (Preston 1996:83) The Arab mercenaries went on to strike terror into all they came across, in particular the civilian populations who they brutalised. Indeed the use of terror was about three times more prevalent in the Nationalist Zone. Despite the presence of the backbone of the Catholic Church in Nationalist Spain, discipline was strict. This was a military area and reprisals for the enemy were widespread and brutal. ‘Although figures are very unreliable and open to controversy about 55 000 Rightists were murdered, mostly in the first months of war, for over 200 000 leftists.’ (Romero Salvadó 1999:113) The theatre of Spain was a testing ground for new military tactics and equipment. We saw firsts…

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No Es Necesario Viajar Para Aprender Un Idioma Extranjero

globe

Has leído en Internet que el antiguo ministro de Educación español ha expresado públicamente que no es necesario viajar para aprender un idioma extranjero. Como estudiante de idiomas, ¿qué opinión tienes al respecto?   Soy estudiante de traducción en la universidad de Cardiff y durante mis tres años de estudios no tengo que ir al país extranjero para aprender los idiomas. Por eso yo creo que es muy posible que el antiguo ministro de Educación español sea correcto. Por supuesto, si viaja al extranjero se puede ganar unas ventajas para sus estudios. Se puede ganar de sumergirse en la cultura nativa, totalmente rodearse en el idioma extranjero, por el que todo el mundo que se encuentra es hablar. Además de la oportunidad de tener una plena inmersión en una cultura totalmente diferente se puede creer amistades internacionales que pueden ofrecer más durante la vida.   Por otro lado es posible quedarse en su propio país y aprender un idioma extranjero. Por ejemplo, si aprende un idioma muerto como el griego antiguo o el latín, es imposible visitar un país donde se hablan estas lenguas. Un lenguaje moderno no es necesariamente diferente de aprender que un lenguaje muerto. En la paz de un aula es posible centrarse y aprender bien. Con un hablante nativo de ultramar como su profesor durante dos horas a la semana es como si estuviera visitando un país extranjero por un breve período concentrado. Hay servicios de internet como italki.com donde se puede aprender en línea y conocer a los instructores a través de skype. Me gusta mucho este servicio y aunque nunca he visitado España me siento como puedo hablar con un buen acento e imagino que he viajado realmente allí. Es más cómodo estudiar en su propio entorno donde está relajado y tiene una tasa de estudio más alta.   En general, aunque ciertamente puedo ver algunas de las ventajas de estudiar en el extranjero, creo que el Ministro es totalmente correcto y que es posible estudiar idiomas extranjeros sin viajar.

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Le Filtre Français

facebook france filter

« Le succès du filtre Facebook rappelle que l’indignation est parfois sélective. » Selon vous : «  Est-ce une raison pour brocarder ceux qui l’adoptent pour exprimer publiquement leur solidarité ? » Après les attaques terroristes à Paris en novembre 2015, un filtre qui vous permet de changer votre photo de profil à celle du tricolore français est apparu sur Facebook. Ce filtre vous permet supposément de montrer votre solidarité avec les victimes des attaques. Le filtre s’est révélé très populaire et s’est répandu de manière virale à travers le monde occidental. Cependant, le filtre a également suscité des critiques de certains milieux et dans cet essai, nous visons à discuter une partie de la controverse entourant le filtre. Est-ce que l’indignation est parfois sélective ? Est-ce qu’il faut brocarder ceux qui adoptent le filtre ? D’une part, la popularité du filtre est un excellent moyen de montrer la solidarité contre les terroristes horribles. Que le filtre s’est répandu jusqu’ici et large montre comment offensé le monde occidental a été par l’outrage terroriste. D’autre part, l’utilisation du filtre peut être critiquée. Pourquoi un filtre pour les victimes de l’attaque au Liban la veille des attaques de Paris n’a-t-il pas été utilisé? L’utilisation du filtre démontre l’eurocentrisme et montre peut-être la limite de notre empathie. Non seulement il y a des attaques terroristes à Paris, mais aussi à Bagdad, en Syrie, au Pakistan, mais pourquoi ne changeons-nous pas nos drapeaux pour ceux de ces pays? On peut dire que peut-être nous valorisons les victimes occidentales, les femmes dans leurs chapeaux de magasins laineux, plus que ces femmes voilées du Moyen-Orient. Est-ce un signe de la suprématie blanche que nous choisissons de draper nos photos de profil avec le tricolore? C’est un signe d’indignation sélective. Mais on peut nous pardonner de faire preuve de solidarité avec nos voisins? Les attaques terroristes sont pratiquement sur notre porte. Paris est une ville où nous passons des escapades romantiques de week-end, que nous étudions en détail dans nos cours de français GCSE, la capitale de notre voisin le plus proche. Une attaque contre Paris est sûrement une attaque contre nous? Je pense qu’il est naturel que nous devions faire preuve d’empathie pour les victimes des attaques de Paris. Cependant, y aurait-il une meilleure façon de manifester de l’indignation contre les terroristes? D’autres groupes ont essayé d’imiter le succès du filtre français. Par exemple, les militants du mariage homosexuel aux États-Unis ont introduit un…

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Fidelity In Translation

Torture-Of-Etienne-Dolet

‘Fidelity has dominated translation history, but theorists interpret it in starkly different ways.’ Discuss, making reference to at least two theorists.   Faithfulness or fidelity has been a measure by which a translator’s work can be judged. However, fidelity has not remained constant throughout time and across space and at different stages of history the interpretation of fidelity has varied quite broadly. This essay aims to discuss this meandering in the term fidelity and will examine various theorists who can provide examples of fidelity in action.   Fidelity defines exactly how precisely a translated document conforms with its source. It can allude to how a document corresponds with its source in a variety of ways, from being ‘faithful to the message’, to being ‘faithful to the author’. Also one must factor in the register, the languages and grammar, the cultures and the form. Fidelity theory and its discussion has dominated the history of translation studies. In the early days, adherence to the source text in a verbatim way was seen as the best fidelity. However, as time has progressed, society has learned to define fidelity quite differently.   Origins of translators in history can be difficult to define. One of the key protagonists we have is Cicero, the early Roman orator. The Romans perceived themselves as a continuation of their Greek models. Translation was primarily a form of literary apprenticeship and literature was read in parallel Greek and Latin texts. Cicero outlines his approached to translation in his work De optimo genere oratorum (46 BCE), Cicero writes: ‘And I did not translate them as an interpreter, but as an orator, keeping the same ideas and forms, or as one might say, the ‘figures’ of thought, but in language which conforms to our usage. And in so doing, I did not hold it necessary to render word for word, but I preserved the general style and force of the language.’(Cicero 46 BCE). Thus Cicero was rebelling against the traditions of ‘word-for-word’ translation.   Another innovative translator from Cicero’s time was the poet, Horace (65 BC-8 BC), who again favored a ‘sense-for-sense’ view to translation. Horace was interested in promoting creative writing, and saw in his Ars Poetica how the free translation of Greek texts aided poetic composition:   ‘It is difficult to treat a common matter in a way that is particular to you; and you would do better to turn…

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La « New Jungle » de Calais

jungle de calais

La « new jungle » de Calais est-elle un problème français ou britannique ? Il existe beaucoup de controverse autour de la question de la « new jungle » de Calais. La « jungle de Calais », aussi appelée « camp de Lande », est une expression désignant les camps de migrants et de réfugiés installés à partir du début des années 2000 à Calais, Coquelles et Sangatte, aux abords de l’entrée française du tunnel sous la Manche et de la zone portuaire de Calais. Il y avait plus de 5000 personnes dans la « new jungle », la plupart sont des migrants qui tentent de pénétrer sur le territoire du Royaume-Uni en passagers clandestins. Même si la « jungle » est géographiquement française, comme une question de frontière, les problèmes liés aux migrants à Calais est en tandem un problème britannique. Quant à quel pays est le plus responsable de la situation dans son ensemble, qui est un débat que cet essai a pour but de répondre. La migration est un problème qui touche vraiment tout le monde et est une pomme de discorde à la fois sur la droite et la gauche du spectre politique. Les migrants de Calais sont détenus en France même si elles ont toutes une destination préférée du Royaume-Uni. Le gouvernement français sont obligés de nettoyer ce qui est essentiellement un gâchis anglais et la coopération entre les gouvernements des deux pays est essentielle si l’ensemble de la situation de la jungle est de ne pas devenir hors de contrôle. En France, alors que la « new jungle » est un problème pour les autorités officielles, au Royaume-Uni, il est laissé à des célébrités et des journalistes de journaux pour faire face à la situation. Célébrité de football, Gary Lineker, a récemment tweeté avec sympathie sur les migrants à Calais, ce qui porte l’ensemble de la question à un public de masse au Royaume-Uni. Ses vues ont certainement irrité beaucoup à l’extrême droite, y compris les politiciens. Chanteuse Lily Allen avait visité la « new jungle » et a écrit un article controversé pour le Vice qui a irrité le tabloïd presse britannique. Ces célébrités espéraient qu’en mettant en évidence la question qu’ils pourraient forcer leur gouvernement à agir et pour abriter quelques-uns des nombreux, pauvres, enfants réfugiés Les habitants de Calais croient que « Toutes ces histoires de migrants, ce n’est pas bon pour l’image de Calais. Ça fait fuir les touristes »….

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Review: Agent Storm – My Life Inside Al Qaeda – by Morten Storm

agent storm

This real life tale of espionage is fast-moving and thrilling. It is a real edge-of-the-seat tale of true grit, the lead character, Morten Storm, leading a bewildering double or even triple life, his journey a myriad tour of far-flung places and his work at the key cutting edge of the War on Terror. After a misspent youth in biker gangs and as a petty criminal, Danish protagonist Storm becomes radicalised and rapidly moves through the chain of command in the developing structure of Al Qaeda and its affiliates across the World. His rise within this world comes through devoted study in traditionalist schools in Yemen where he is enabled to make contact with the critical figures that allow this tale to develop. After a crisis of conscience where he could have easily slipped the other way, Morten realised that his path of jihad was wrong and defected to the West’s security services: Danish PET, British MI5 and mI6 and the American CIA. He begins a life as an agent and provides absolutely vital intelligence on many of the most high profile missions, including the assassination of Anwar Al-Awlaki, scourge of the USA. The true aspects of this story make it stranger than fiction and the rapidly burning tale leads us on a rollercoaster journey of clandestine intelligence meets and very dangerous infiltrations of terrorist networks. What strikes me is how tightly knit the jihadist community is, how Morten seems to have had contact in some way or other with most of the key terrorists that have attacked or attempted to attack Western targets in the news stories of recent years. I loved the down-to-earth attitude of Morten as he reveals a passionate story where his personal sacrifice to the cause was immense. I wish him all the best in the dangerous life he must now lead, in the crosshairs of Al-Qaeda and outside of the protection of security services after becoming a whistleblower. An amazing five star read.

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Review: The Story of Spain by Mark R. Williams

the story of spain

This is a full history of Spain. It gives a good, full overview of the Spaniards, from prehistory through to the present day. The chapters are neat and easily digestable and each conclude with nice references to museums and locations of interest throughout Spain. I felt the book came into its own when discussing the height of Spanish Royalty. I have read more detailed histories of the Moorish period and also of the Spanish Civil War although the chapters in this book were good summaries of these epochs. The book is fast and flowing, without going into an overload of detail. It is a good compliment to my Hispanic Studies course at Cardiff University.

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Review: A Spy Among Friends – Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal – by Ben Macintyre

a spy among friends

Telling the remarkable story of Kim Philby, who was probably the most effective spy in history, this book reads fast and furiously, a real page-turner. The book focuses on the dramatic relationship between two friends, both rising stars in the world of British espionage, Nicholas Elliott and Kim Philby. The intrigue of Philby is that he was working for the Soviet Union after being drawn to communism through his time at Cambridge University, from where a ring of five key defectors were recruited. Philby managed to infiltrate MI6 at a top level, ultimately serving as the liaison officer between US and UK secret services in Washington DC. He had access to information from leading CIA agents such as James Angleton and through his public schoolboy charm he was adept at getting colleagues to drunkenly reveal all their secrets, secrets that he discretely passed to the KGB centre in Moscow, from where he took his orders. Even after the fall of fellow Cambridge conspirators, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, Philby managed to shake the tale of a particularly suspicious MI5 and continued to operate in the clandestine world of espionage. His ultimate confrontation with best friend Elliott, after the game was finally up, left the door open for him to finally defect to a relatively anonymous retirement in Moscow. He chose political ideology over loyalty to friends and the story of Kim Philby is one of ultimate treachery. In his wake he left much damage and must have throughout the Cold War caused the death of hundreds, even thousands of people who were involved in Western operations. The book tells a most exciting tale and its global spanning and most exceptional debauchery and intrigue make it a real life James Bond adventure. Certainly worth a read and proof that real life is often stranger than fiction. Five star rating.

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Brexit And Translators – Interview with Paul Kaye, European Commission

BREXIT

52% of the British public voted in the Brexit referendum for the UK to leave the European Union. Brexit will have a severe impact on most people’s work and lives. I decided to explore what Brexit means to translators in the UK and managed to catch up with Paul Kaye from the European Commission who kindly supplied Dragon Translate with an interview. Paul Kaye – Language Officer – European Commission Representation in the UK @PaulKayeEUlangs Interviewed by Wesley Gerrard, Dragon Translate, Wednesday, 20th July 2016   What do you do exactly? I work as a language officer with the European Commission. I’m a translator seconded to the European Commission Representation in the UK, where my job is to help promote multilingualism, translation, the language industry, and language learning. There are two of us doing this outreach role, based in London. We do various activities, promoting these kinds of things in the UK, helping to promote them. There are also lots of other organizations working on the same lines. How do you see Brexit changing the role of UK translators? By UK Translators, what do you mean? Well, translators based in the UK and UK national translators abroad. Too early to say for that. I can answer questions about the European Union as an institution, as an organization – but I think, if I understand rightly, you’re asking me to talk about the impact of Brexit on the UK’s wider translation sector. Is that right? Yes. Too early to say for that and I wouldn’t feel qualified, actually, so I can’t answer that one. Ok. How, specifically, will the European Commission, as one of the largest employers of translators and interpreters, respond to Brexit. Again, it’s slightly uncertain. What’s happening now is the UK has to trigger Article 50, as you’ll know from all the coverage. Yes. And so, once that happens, the negotiations start. Until then the UK is a member of the European Union, well in fact, until the negotiations conclude and the UK withdraws the UK is a member. In one sense things just carry on as normal. In the translation service, the fate of UK nationals who are working for the EU institutions – that will be part of the negotiations between the UK and the EU – again too early to say for that. Once the UK does leave it will be highly unlikely that any new UK nationals…

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Review: Comandante – Inside Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela – by Rory Carroll

comandante

Hugo Chavez, Bolivarian Revolutionary, Presidente, Comandante. After a failed military coup in 1992, Hugo Chavez managed to democratically come to power in Venezuela in 1999. This book from the Guardian’s chief South America correspondent, Irishman Rory Carroll, based in Venezuela, explores the intricacies of the Miraflores Palace. Inside the opulent walls lies a mystery of intrigue and uniqueness. Chavez lived an exalted life of a philosopher king and his self-styled approach to government made him a twenty-first century caudillo, leading a socialist revolution and upturning the status quo in Venezuela and becoming a major player on the international stage. The Revolution, financed on the whole by incredible oil wealth, upturned Venezuela. Initial progress eventually tumbled into relative chaos although I feel thatChavez on the whole was a success for the people, and turned their lives around, especially the poor. Chavez had a rigorous propaganda campaign,, using 21st century technology in innovative ways that captivated a largely captive audience. I loved the tales of his flagship TV show, Hello Presidente, and hearing of the devotion of Miraflores to the twittersphere was exciting. Ultimately many of the grandiose ideas that kept turning electoral victory after electoral victory for Chavez, proved to be neglected and unrealised goals. There was economic atrophy, unbridled crime, huge corruption and nepotism and unnecessary crackdowns on political opponents. However, the Revolution succeeded in wooing luminaries such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Noam Chomsky and had an incredible friend and supporter in Fidel Castro. This book reads fast and furiously and is entertaining if often unbelievable as it unfurls its ever imaginative hero’s escapades. Five star rating.

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Brexit and Mental Health

brexit

Brexit, like it or not is a reality. 54% of the public voted in a referendum for us to leave the EU. I watched with despair as events unfolded and was almost praying for us to stay in as I feared that a Brexit decision could really send my End Of Terror situation spiralling out of control. Post-Brexit, if I believed in restricting people’s liberties for thought crime and nowt else and I had the power as a psychiatrist, then maybe I’d be sentencing 54% of the population for section detainment in mental hospitals for making a completely irrational decision in voting, a decision I believe that long term will make the entire UK suffer, economically, politically and more importantly, to End Of Terror, within the mental health system. Why the big fear, you may ask? Firstly, one of the core components of EU membership is that EU citizens have access to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. This court, although I’ve never used it personally, acts as a safeguard for human rights. I’ve always dreamed of getting over to Strasbourg and felt that it would be one of the only places in which to get justice for End Of Terror. I will never realise that goal. But,many good things have come from Strasbourg over the years and indirectly it has safeguarded all those unnecessarily under the cosh, detained in UK mental health institutions. One piece of legislation that has been delivered through the presence of the EU Human Rights Court, is our own country’s Human Rights Act (1998). This Act came into being under the supervision of the Tony Blair government and basically enshrined EU Human Rights legislation into British Law. I have always felt that the Human Rights Act is incompatible with the Mental Health Act. The fundamental freedoms it enshrines are usurped once the Mental Health Act is invoked. I have constantly tried to argue a Human Rights case for myself, even in the Mental Health Tribunal Courts, quoting the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights and referring to Strasbourg and indeed the Human Rights Act. Most debate, however, falls on deaf ears, and the tribunal courts tend to favour the misplaced incorrect mindset of Mental Health Workers who generally claim that the Mental Health Act is more important than any human rights legislation and overrides it. Treatment against consent is my main bugbear…

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